Report on current risk perceptions and mental models

The LimnoPlast project aims to tackle the issue of microplastics (MP) pollution in freshwater systems in a holistic manner. On that note, the current report focuses mainly on the psychological literature on the subject, intending to provide a comprehensive review of the current literature regarding risk perceptions and mental models, and how these relate to the issue of MP in freshwater systems. People’s risk perceptions and mental models of MP are pivotal aspects to consider when developing appropriate risk communication strategies and behavior change interventions that address this global challenge.
The first section outlines how the current report fits within the LimnoPlast project, its approach and objectives, as well as how the insights gained from this report are related to other project deliverables. The second section addresses the concept and structure of environmental risk perception, followed by a discussion of different factors that may contribute to shaping these perceptions. Additional focus is placed on the concept of mental models, broadly described as people’s intuitive mental representations of certain events.
An increasing share of the public appears to be concerned about MP, including their potentially harmful impacts on the environment and human health. Risk perceptions are important in this context given their role in shaping public responses to environmental challenges. It is crucial to understand the human dimension of MP in order to attempt to find possible solutions to the problem of MP mobilizing public engagement. The employment of the mental model approach to risk communication might be appropriate for this endeavor.

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